The following review was contributed by
The opening scene of Hilary Hawke’s first novel, The Payback, is set in the Newark Airport terminal where Margot notices a young pathetic woman sitting on a worn plaid suitcase and clutching a baby.
As the story unfolds, we learn that the woman’s name is Claudia Lopez and she has just arrived from Santa Cruz, Bolivia with her infant daughter Juliana. Unfortunately, her husband, Antonio, never shows up at the airport to meet her, and presumably has abandoned his wife and infant child.
Apparently, Antonio is embroiled in the trafficking of narcotics and is on the run from some very unsavory characters.
We also learn that Margot, who had been at one time a promising actress, is now a high-class call girl. Margot, who sees Claudia as an image of herself when she was younger, has a soft spot for Claudia, and decides to provide shelter for her new- found friend.
Unfortunately, their relationship results in some viscerally horrible events.
Hawke’s professional training as a musician are in evidence as her prose rolls and rollicks culminating at times in pronounced crescendos particularly in some of the vivid and tense sex scenes. No doubt, many of these scenes may prove to be too grotesque for the squeamish. As generally the case with tales pertaining to prostitution, there is plenty of deviated sex, drugs, lowlifes, and a variety of other undesirables.
Hawke’s clean and direct prose shows that she can clearly write.
The voices of the principal characters are most natural offering insight into the story of the characters. Moreover, the reader is able to sense the bitterness as well as optimism felt by Claudia and Margot.
I found, however, the novel’s ending somewhat unexpected, and readers may be annoyed in not knowing how some of the crimes committed by Claudia and Antonio escaped being unpunished.